Four men talking around a fire

You’re going to have to indulge me today. I’ve mentioned quite a few times now how the revolving photos from my Google device catch my eye. It seems there’s a different photo every week that draws my attention, and for various reasons. Sometimes, it’s pure nostalgia, even sentimentality. Sometimes, it’s surprise at coming across something I had forgotten, or wonder at beholding something familiar in a completely different way. Occasionally there’s an intangible emotion that has me looking twice.

I think that’s the case with this image. When I look at it, I think how well composed it is. It feels such an Australian picture, out in the bush with a kettle dangling over a fire, a few men chewing the fat, overlaid by the haze of woodsmoke. I look at it, and I’m reminded of one of the classic bush paintings by McCubbin or Roberts.

I’d only be guessing when and where this was taken. I remember in the early/mid-nineties we went into the high country of Victoria, around Whitfield, to hunt deer. It was a miserable few days. It hardly stopped raining, and at one stage it appeared our campsite would be flooded. We never saw a deer and spent most of our time huddled around the fire reading or talking or drinking. I was there with my step-father and step-brother, who both got sick, which was no surprise given the conditions.

I remember I read Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard sitting by the fire, and it seemed particularly apt to be reading it in such circumstances, and therefore special. I can’t say it was a fun few days, but I remained healthy, and it was an interesting time.

The terrain in the photo looks like that trip. We were camped nearby a stream with hills steeply climbing up from our campsite, thick with scrub. That’s not our campsite though, and I don’t recall that moment – that’s me in the red. My step-father is out of the picture and was obviously behind the camera. My step-brother is the man in the middle standing and wearing a drizabone. I don’t know the man on the right in the hat. The man sitting was our guide, I think.

But, it could have been another time.

I leave it here as a piece of Australiana. I feel like I could reach out and touch it.

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